11-Year-Old Yoga Teacher Inspires

For Shea Mowry, mastering the yoga poses was the easy part. Learning to listen deeply to herself has been the real education.
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For Shea Mowry, mastering the yoga poses was the easy part. Learning to listen deeply to herself has been the real education.
 Shea Mowry guides her sister, Anna, into Extended Hand-to-Big Toe Pose (left) and Down Dog.

Shea Mowry guides her sister, Anna, into Extended Hand-to-Big Toe Pose (left) and Down Dog.

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For most 5th graders, school, homework, family, and sports are plenty to keep them busy. But Shea Mowry recently added an extensive yoga teacher training to her list of activities. She completed the 200-hour teacher training in February.

“Yoga helps me relax before a competition or test,” says Shea, who is also a competitive gymnast. “I breathe and let tension out of my body.”

Shea may be young, but she’s not an inexperienced yogi. She was first exposed to the practice when she was only in kindergarten thanks to a gym teacher at her school near her home in Sterling, Virginia. And she did yoga alongside her mom, Karen, who is a yoga teacher and holistic health coach. Karen joined the training with Shea so they could do it together.

“I thought it would be nice for her because she is a competitive person,” Karen says. “She always tries to do well in school and in gymnastics. I thought it would be a nice activity that was more focused on listening to your own Self.”

Shea seems to have taken that lesson to heart. “When I listen to my inner voice, I ... go only as far as my body wants me to," she says. "I learned that you don't have to be able to do everything the first time.”

We all learn a lot about ourselves through our yoga practice, but is there anything we, as adults, can learn about yoga from an 11-year-old? Ursula Cox, the owner of Inner Power Yoga in Potomac Falls, Virginia, and the leader of Shea’s teacher training, thinks so. “The older we get, the more frightened we are—it’s true in the poses or when we try something new,” says Cox. “Right now, for Shea, the possibilities are limitless. That’s so wonderful to see. It's an inspiration for all of us.”

Teachers as young as Shea are unusual, but she’s not alone. Last year, a group of three teenagers (ages 12, 13, and 14) from Encinitas, California and a 9-year-old from the Washington, D.C. area completed 200-hour teacher trainings.

“When kids get older, up into the teenage years, they don’t listen to their parents or teachers as much as they do their peers,” Cox notes. “I just already see what a big difference Shea is going to be able to make in the world.”

Shea has already begun to put her training to use by teaching yoga with her gymnastics teammates. “I want to share with others to just to be yourself and love who you are,” she says.

Erica Rodefer Winters